Ganas Community started on
Our purpose is to bring reason and emotion together in daily problem-solving, in order to create our world, with love, the way we want it to be.
Open minds make it possible to talk together and understand each other better. We ongoingly learn how to better cooperate, care for each other, and share resources. We welcome those who want to join us in learning together.
Why "ganas"? The Spanish word "ganas" means "motivation sufficient to act". We chose it as the name for our community because it represented an important central value better than any word in English. Community living is full of interpersonal challenges and opportunities. With “ganas” we use our energy to focus on working out problems together. This allows us to embrace diversity, which makes community living sustainable.
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For over 40 years, we have worked to create the secure, comfortable, rewarding environment we thought necessary for a good life together. We share 7 large, mainly adjacent residences on the North Shore of Staten Island in a racially mixed, working class neighborhood, close to the Staten Island Ferry (a half-hour free ferry ride from downtown Manhattan).
Work. Some community members work in Manhattan, Brooklyn, or Staten Island in a variety of fields, including social services, health care, education, healing arts, culinary arts, and information technology. Others of us work in our two Every Thing Goes stores nearby, where we sell used clothing, books, furniture, and a variety of related merchandise, or in the Ganas Community residences in housekeeping, food distribution, cooking, administration, or building maintenance and renovation.
Indoor Spaces. We’ve renovated our buildings to suit our needs and our pleasure. Our living spaces are comfortable, attractive and relatively well maintained. Bathrooms are shared among floormates in each house. Public spaces are shared, and some can be reserved for special gatherings.
Outdoor Spaces. Boardwalks connect most of the houses. We have some flower and vegetable gardens. There are several porches, a hammock, an outdoor clothesline, and lovely spots for sitting. We have many trees (some fruit bearing) and berry bushes, and the yards are kept somewhat wild, not heavily manicured. Ganas sits on a hill, from which we can catch the sun and moon as they rise and set. Year round, there are views of the sky, the bay and the city. In summertime, we enjoy the shade and shelter of the large trees which surround us, and the option to cool off in our small dipping pool.
Food at Ganas is plentiful and varied enough to suit most people, from meat eaters to vegans. Dinner is served in our main dining room Tuesday through Saturday and leftovers are available 24/7. Additionally, everyone has access to stocked kitchens where people can prepare their own meals and snacks. During the pandemic we continue to serve dinner while maintaining social distancing, mask protocols, and hand washing.
Dinner Discussions. Evenings in the dining room are unstructured. Because of the need to socially distance, seating at dinner is limited, and we encourage people to eat outside if the weather permits, or take their plates to their rooms. Any larger group discussions are being held virtually for the time being.
Small Group Activities. We have several living rooms which are used for meetings, gatherings, discussions of various types, dancing, exercise, computer use, listening to or making music, TV or movie watching, eating or just hanging out.
Large Group Activities. Anyone can organize most anything, with a bit of communication and responsibility-taking for set-up and clean up. We have dances, talent shows, potlucks and parties. Some people organize outings and trips, barbeques and play readings. Birthdays are often celebrated with a brunch on the weekend, with the birthday person selecting activities for the group to enjoy together.
A rather unusual social and political structure has evolved, probably because of our desire to create as many lifestyle options as possible. We have several different, but complementary, populations at Ganas. The first, called the core group, currently consists of nine people — five men and four women — who function as the community's management team. They pool all their time, talents, and material things. They're also committed to working through problems that arise between them. This group is open to new members, but because of the demands made on core group people's time and resources, few people opt to join.
The second is a group of about 25 people, most of whom are interested in the Ganas philosophy. They do not share resources, are not necessarily committed to join any particular activity, or to exchange feedback, expose their own emotional reality, or accept anyone else's. However, mostly they do opt to participate. They share in decision making, and they tend to live here for many years. Members of this group may work either outside or inside the community.
The third consists of about 35 people many of whom consider this their home. Others have come for a short visit, anywhere from a few weeks to a few years. Some work in the community. Some are employed elsewhere or are students. They tend to form close social sub-groups, and may hold very different but surprisingly compatible philosophies. They may or may not be involved with Ganas' goals and activities, but almost all of them enjoy the Ganas experience, and many report on its value to them years after leaving. The few who are here short term provide an opportunity for members to experience a revolving population of diverse people.
Despite this variety of connection, everyone who lives here agrees to follow our four rules (described below) and to use our method of problem-solving.
Rules. Since we deal with problems daily in open discussion, we are able to limit ourselves to only 4 rules:
People breaking one of these rules will be asked to leave.
Agreements are made and changed often. Anyone can bring up any issue any time, and anything can be somewhat modified, if that's what it takes to meet people's needs. We've agreed in principle to help everyone get as much of what they want as possible. None of this consistently goes according to plan, but we work on it.
Decision-making procedures are not fixed. Matters that require major resources or policy issues are usually made by consensus of the core group with input from interested community members. Rarely, specific issues are decided by vote. In general, each area has a manager who has the authority to make most work decisions, after getting input interactively.
The idea is that most current issues are better resolved by treating each conflict as a new event that requires its own unique attention, and that old considerations are not necessarily relevant to new problems.
Good interactive communication is our central value. Of course, we include emotional and other nonverbal exchanges in our definition of communication. Critical feedback is clearly the most important and seems to be the hardest kind of information to give or to accept. Yet it's obviously necessary to identify mistakes before we can correct them.
We've opted to increase our receptivity to intake rather than try to control the content or style of people's output. The idea is to disclose what's happening and then work out what's wanted; instead of hiding unpopular thoughts and feelings, and living in a haze of unknowns and deceptions. That means making approval or disapproval far less important than we now do. We created an environment in which we really are safe to do these things — but we don't always feel safe. Too often, most of us still hide our truth and recoil from others when they present theirs. It's a full time job learning to do better.
We have used many methods over the years, including a range of relaxation and mind quieting procedures; a variety of instruments for performance feedback and behavioral recordkeeping; and study groups that define terms and discuss theories of behavior. The main approach we rely on now is direct discussion. Therefore, group involvement is almost a daily event at Ganas. Five mornings a week, Tuesdays through Saturdays, from 8:00 to 9:15, is when most of the work really happens. We discuss business and personal problems, explore hidden agendas and defenses, and think about how we communicate (or don't) about whatever is going on.
About 20 or 25 people are committed to try to express feelings and thoughts freely. We've agreed to maintain one focus at these times so that anyone that speaks can expect to have everyone's attention. Many people find these large interactive groups difficult — even frightening — at first, but some newcomers find the rewards worth the effort, and participation keeps growing.
Most of our work happens in two retail stores called Every Thing Goes Thrift & Vintage. One sells furniture and clothing. The second is a bookstore/cafe and performance space. The businesses are located a few blocks from the residences. They are well organized, efficiently run, attractive, and profitable. Most of the inventory is comprised of donations from households.
Approximately 15-20 people are involved with the businesses. Another 12-15 people work with the food, gardening, housekeeping, administration, and maintaining or upgrading the property and vehicles. Full time work is 30 hours a week. About 25-30 people work outside the community and pay their expenses.
Most of Ganas shares a strong work ethic. It is important to most of us to create replicable models of profitable cooperatives in the context of ecologically sound practices and socially valuable products.
We welcome visitors. Our daily rate is $50 a night, including room, food, toiletries, etc. Email Susan at email@example.com if you are interested.
People who might like to live, work, or visit at Ganas are invited to email Susan at firstname.lastname@example.org. We currently have a virtual visitors' information session on the first Friday of every month from 7-8pm. Email Susan at email@example.com to get the link.
When you visit, most of our activities are open to you. You are free to participate in our discussions if they interest you. You will be encouraged to say or ask whatever you want (even if it's personal) and express whatever you feel. But then you will be asked to hear whatever is said or felt in response. If someone in the group feels that your input is ill-informed, or an interference with what's happening at a particular time, they'll tell you so and explain why. If what's happening cannot be interrupted at that moment, you might be asked to wait until a better time, but we do urge you to ask. We will try to provide information about people, to update you, or to discuss community affairs, feedback learning theory and practice, or anything else you'd like to know.
People staying for a night to a week are asked to pay $50 a day and help out some. If you decide to try living at Ganas for a while, all your expenses can be met with one fee of $920 or $970 a month, depending on what you can afford. That covers your room, food, toiletries, laundry supplies, utilities, wifi, etc. If you want to work in the community, you need to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out if there is work available, and if your skills meet our needs. If working here looks like an option, you will undergo a one month work trial when you get here, so we can find out how things work between us during that time. You will need to bring a deposit equal to one month's expenses whether you work here or work outside. In addition, all Ganas members are asked to help out in some way for at least a few hours a week.
What Ganas offers and does not offer is not always clear. We are not a therapeutic community and we don't give feedback to everyone. People have to be willing (and thought to be able) to make good use of direct feedback before we do. Personal issues do come up spontaneously and sometimes quite publicly, but they are only discussed in depth with clear consent and effective cooperation. We feel that our group discussions are simply ongoing, truth seeking, planning or problem solving dialogues.
People who want to learn how to think, love, and bring expressions of reason and emotion together in dialogue will probably enjoy Ganas very much. People who want to understand and contribute to others may find a treasure house of value for themselves here.
If you would like to live, work, and play in community with interesting and interested people;
If you care about good problem-solving dialogue based on truth and goodwill (and want to learn how to do it);
If you have sought close relationship with varied people who want to hear, understand, and care about each other;
If you want interesting, valuable work, and you enjoy working productively (or want to learn how to);
If such things feel right for you ... You are invited to visit and perhaps to live and work with us.
email Susan at email@example.com
135 Corson Ave.
Staten Island, NY 10301-2933
Last modified May 17, 2021
web page feedback: Richard Wonder, firstname.lastname@example.org